Canadian Volunteer Gives Music Lessons in Rocinha

(Original article in Portuguese: )




19/10/2012 » Fabiana Paiva

33-year-old Vanessa Rodrigues has a passion for the project and for Rio de Janeiro

Five months ago, 33-year-old Canadian Vanessa Rodrigues decided to volunteer at the Rocinha Music School (Escola de Música da Rocinha, or EMR), and teach children from the community to play a musical instrument. Seventeen residents between the ages of 7 and 17 are learning to play instruments.

Passionate about Brazilian culture, Vanessa first came to Rio in 2009 to participate in Rio’s Carnaval parade. She was accepted to play tamborim [brazilian percussion instrument] in the drum corps of the Acadêmicos da Rocinha samba school. At these rehearsals she learned of the community and of the EMR music school. She didn’t think twice, she went at once to present herself to the school and offer her services as a volunteer.

“At first I was only going to stay for three months, but I wanted to help in some way; so I taught some piano lessons and did an arrangement for a band of [the school’s] mentors. I returned to Brazil in January of this year and decided to stay. I saw that the school was lacking a violin program. I obtained a two-year permanent visa to enable me to do this volunteer work in the community. This project gives me a reason to live, profound peace and happiness,” Vanessa beams.

The arrival of the Canadian allowed the EMR to blow the dust off of more than 20 violins which had been in storage for years. According to assistant director Simone Ferreira, after just two months of classes, the students are already showing results.

“They did a small concert after only two months of lessons. The fruits of their labour were visible very quickly. We are hoping now that the community has been pacified, more people will want to come visit and volunteer. It was difficult to keep teachers because many were afraid,” remembers Simone.

14-year-old Gabriel de Oliveira, student of Vanessa, discovered a new passion in the violin. Aside from attending classes every Monday, he takes the instrument home and practices two hours per day.

“I took flute lessons and I found out that there were also violin lessons being offered. Because it is very expensive, I never thought it would be possible to learn to play it here in the community. I decided to sign up and I’m loving it. People say that the violin is my buddy. I think I’ve found myself,” professes the youth, resident of 2nd Street in Rocinha.

Orchestra becomes reality

After 18 years since its inception, the EMR music school will finally be able to realize the dream of its founder, German Hans Ulrich Koch. According to Simone, the arrival of Vanessa and the donation from friends of the EMR made it possible to start an orchestra. Now, in addition to keyboard, cavaquinho [Brazilian ukulele], recorder, choir and nylon-string guitar, the EMR also offers lessons in acoustic guitar, trombone, trumpet, double-bass, tuba, violin and viola.

“Only now are we able to have classes of orchestral instruments. Individual lessons have already begun, and starting next week, we will begin rehearsing together,” affirms Simone.

Having had experience playing in a string orchestra in Canada, Vanessa has assumed responsibility for the violin and viola sections of the [EMR] orchestra. This week, she will start teaching viola classes as well. Full of joy, she has already settled in the neighbourhood of Tavares Bastos and isn’t considering returning to live in her country of origin.

“I feel very much at home here. [Though] I would one day like to return to do an exchange with them, bring them to play a concert in Montreal,” Vanessa dreams.

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